Anchor dramas

First job of the day, see what is wrong with the anchor winch. As we pulled into Ille Mato’s bay last night my old reliable friend the winch was remarkably silent. Not even an attempt at assisting us. No amount of cajoling or resetting the circuit breaker changed his mind, he remained stubbornly (unusually) silent. Much pondering ensued. We were in a nice protected anchorage, but reefs and other boats were close enough to cause us an issue if we left the boat un-steered for too long. We will just have to manually lower the anchor and worry about the winch tomorrow in better light - at 4pm the sun was starting to disappear behind Mato making the reef more difficult to see. But what would be the best technique to lower the anchor in a controlled manner? Controlled being the optimal word.

Unlike what most people (non sailors) believe you don’t just dump the anchor on the bottom, and it is not really the anchor itself that holds you in place but the weight of the chain also. What we always aim to do is drop the anchor in a nice clear patch of sand (to avoid coral damage and entanglement) and then slowly drive the boat backwards away from the direction of the wind as we ease out more chain in a nice straight line. The rule of thumb is at least 3m of chain to 1m of water depth, I (safety monkey that I am) work the ratio of 5m to 1m of depth assuming we have the swing radius (that is nothing to hit) to take the length of chain.

In rougher or deeper conditions I let out even more we have 100m on board and its not helping anyone by staying in the anchor well if its needed. At 6m of depth (allowing for the rising and falling tide) I was going to put out 30m of chain and then add the ‘snubber’ - more about the snubber later.

With Jamie running back and forth to maintain steerage we ease out 10m of chain, attach the anchor safety line to a link near the winch and slowly drop 10m of chain and the anchor into the water. The anchor safety line is a short length of rope (20cm) attached to a bollard near the anchor winch. Its purpose is to hold the anchor and chain on the deck of the boat while we are underway so that the winch (my old friend) can relax. Well, tonight its got a new job, holding the strain of the anchor chain to allow us to ease out 10m of chain at a time before lowering them into the water.

We should be able to manually lower the anchor using the winch in its ‘manual’ setting and winding it out, but for some reason he is in a mood and won’t allow any movement.

It’s simple to know when we have 10m out as I have coloured cable ties attached at 10m intervals, each interval a different colour in the sequence of the rainbow ROYGBIV - okay I don’t have indigo and violet, but you get the idea. At 20m in the water we pull back on the anchor with the engines in reverse to make sure that the anchor has ‘set’ - that is we are not moving. Once we have 30m in the water I attach the snubber and Jamie lowers the final 5m of chain into the water.

The snubber rope is a thick length of rope that is attached at the bow of both hulls - that is the very tip of both hulls of the catamaran. When in use it makes a nice triangle of rope stretching from both hulls to the chain in the water allowing the hulls to take the strain of the anchor chain and not the winch (see he likes his rest), it also helps to point the boat into the wind - maintaining a better angle keeps the boat calmer when wind and waves picks up (technically this works most of the time, although occasionally the waves (tide) act contrary to the wind and we rock and roll all over the place).

Anchor set, we pull back again with the motors, both of us agreeing that we are not going anywhere and turn the engines off. Usually all this is accomplished in a matter of minutes with our electronic winch doing all the work, just for laughs I try the buttons again, still silent. Oh well, its been a long enough day, time for a cocktail, we can worry about the winch in the morning.

Side note: the winch started up first shot the following morning so we have no idea what the problem was, and it is impossible to investigate the issue with a fully functioning item.

Side side note: 2 days later the same thing happenend, after pulling apart the entire boat (actually) it turned out to be the relay switch at the back of the pantry that had died. Oh well, back to the marina to spend some more boat bucks…

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